Learning through the storm
Greetings to the Nazarene family!
The year 2020 started like any other year. Communities, churches, families, all of us, started with plans for the new year and dreams for the new decade. Pastors had plans to accomplish their Vision 20/20; many families had plans and resolutions for the new year.
As the year progressed, however, we soon learned the sad news of a pandemic that impacted the entire world. This pandemic affected every country and community. As a result, we were mandated to distance ourselves socially. Because of that, people stayed home and stopped going to church. Many of us could not go to work, which resulted in a deep global economic crisis. Because of the economic crisis, societies experienced the turmoil of decade and century-old social illnesses that resurfaced during the time of the pandemic. Families, communities, and entire countries were affected and infected not only by the virus of the pandemic but also by the virus of those endemic illnesses that were still not addressed. This resulted in social and ethnic tensions in many of our countries. Talk about a perfect storm!
We have talked to many leaders, pastors, and heads of households. Most everyone that we have encountered told us how unexpected and traumatic this time has been. Nobody was prepared for this time. Nobody was really expecting a pandemic of this magnitude and its subsequent impact. Many of us confess that we were not ready for it and that we feel inadequately prepared to respond. Some leaders tell us that pastors and parents are so desperate about the uncertainty of the current state of affairs that they “feel like they are drowning.”
This “perfect storm” in the world reminds us of the story narrated in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The Lord Jesus had just invited the disciples to join Him, get in the boat, and navigate with Him to the other side of the lake, where He had the mission to go and minister to a man who was demon-possessed. Of course, the disciples didn’t fully know about the mission, but they still joined Jesus on the journey to the other side.
As they were cruising across the lake, and as Jesus had fallen asleep, a squall came and hit their little boat. Now, a squall is defined as a “sudden, unexpected, and violent wind that accompanies a rainstorm.” By its very definition, the disciples were not ready for the squall, and they panicked. They realized that the Lord was asleep, so they ran to Him and woke Him up. You know the rest of the story: The Lord of the Storm stood up and calmed the storm. The winds subsided and the storm was subdued at the sound of His voice.
After that, He turned to His disciples and asked them, “Where is your faith?”
This story in the Gospel of Luke helps us learn some relevant lessons for the times we are living now. The first lesson is about the depth of the calling. The Lord called the disciples to join Him. He did not tell them to go alone while He would stay on the shore and wait for them to fulfill the mission. The first lesson is predicated by the fact that God calls us to go with Him. It is a co-mission. He is with us.
The second lesson in the story is that the mission of God, the mission that He has entrusted to us, is on the other side of the lake and not in the comfort of the shore. The mission is on the other side of the lake, on the other side of the tracks, on the other side of the border, on the other side of the ocean, and on the other side of the community. The mission is not in the comfort of what we have grown accustomed to on the shore of our daily ministry.
The third lesson from the story is that Jesus, the Lord of the Church, is often relegated to the role of a sleeper while we are doing church on our own — on “cruise control.” Fortunately, He is always with us, just as He promised. Therefore, when we are hit by the storm, He is there! It is in the middle of the perfect storms when we feel that we are drowning that He is there for us. He is ready and available to hear our desperate cry for help at the very moment we feel most hopeless and helpless.
Hear the truth in that. He is there at the moment we feel that we are hopeless and helpless in the middle of the storms of life and ministry. For it is in those moments of deep storms when we realize that, without Jesus, we are really hopeless and helpless.
The good news is that this time of a global perfect storm is a good time for us to plea for help from the Lord of the Storm. There is even better news! The news is that the Lord is ready to hush the storm that overwhelms us. So, as we face this triple storm in the world — the storm of a global pandemic, the storm of economic recession, and the storm of social and ethnic tensions in our communities — our prayer is, first, that we will be reminded of our calling. Our calling to go with Jesus. We are not called to go alone. He is with us!
Our prayer is also that our eyes will remain focused on His mission, a mission that is on the other side, across from our comfort zone. We also pray that, in the middle of the storm, our faith will be focused on Jesus, the Lord of the Storm. He will calm the storm, and the storm will obey Him.
May the Lord bless you!
--Board of General Superintendents
To view a video devotional of this message, click here.